These traditional vegan Greek sesame cookies (koulourakia) are made with olive oil or another vegetable oil. You only need a bowl and a whisk to make them.
This olive oil cookie recipe is one of those old, traditional recipes that are passed down from generation to generation and requires only a bowl and a whisk. I ‘m pretty sure every household has one or two of those recipes. And except from the fact that these old, trusty recipes are valuable mementos firmly attached with smells, feelings and memories from the past, they also carry with them an entire culture and a way of life which is reflected in the way they treat, measure and make use of each ingredient. The fact that this recipe requires just a few ingredients and only a bowl and a whisk (or even a fork) tells us a lot about the simple way of cooking and the effective use of the limited ingredients people had in their disposal at the those times! These cookies are very simple to make but require just a little labor since they’re not dropped by spoonfuls onto the pan, but they’re individually rolled over some sesame into S-shape “snakes” (or, for the math lovers, integral symbols). They have no eggs, nor dairy, so they are naturally vegan and can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or even more!
These cookies get their incredible aroma from a special ingredient, cinnamon oil. Unfortunately, you can’t substitute cinnamon oil with ground cinnamon, because the result will not be the same. Cinnamon oil is the concentrated oil taken directly from the cinnamon bark, and it’s a very powerful stuff, so powerful that if it comes in direct contact with your skin, it can burn you. I remember one time, when I was about 11 years old, my mom sent me to the bakery near our home to get some cinnamon oil because she wanted to make these cookies. By the time I got back, I had a terrible itch on my hands, caused by a mild burn due to some oil that had been in contact with my hand. Apparently, the baker wasn’t very careful and some of the oil had spilled over the small bottle. So, just take some extra care and keep this away from children, just to be safe.
Back to the cookies now! I’m not gonna tell you that these cookies are healthier than your average butter cookie (though they are!) but I will tell you that everyone who tastes them enjoys them very much! They are the perfect cookies to accompany your afternoon coffee or tea. They’re not soft inside like a chocolate chip cookie, but crisp and a little brittle and they soak up liquids very well. My mom and I like to dip them in our coffee, my father dips them in a glass of water (I know!) and my little nieces dip them in milk.
Fun Fact: My grandma makes them so often that my uncle, her son, jokes and says that by now she could have filled an entire truck with them (true!)
The dough will be somewhat oily. This is natural, so don’t be concerned. On the plus side, it will serve as a natural, good olive oil mask for your hands 🙂
To make the sesame really stick to the cookies, put it in a fine sieve and rinse it with water. Drain well and mix in a tablespoon of sugar.
You can also make these cookies without the sesame, something that will save you time.
Since these cookies keep for very long, my mom usually makes triple the recipe and stores them in airtight containers.
Another olive oil recipe, straight from my mom’s kitchen, is this olive oil, coconut and lemon cake.
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Vegan Greek sesame and olive oil cookies (koulourakia)
For the cookies
- ½ cup (110 grams) sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- A pinch of salt
- 1 cup (220 grams) olive oil (or half olive and half vegetable oil)
- ¼ cup (60 grams) orange juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) raki or grappa or vodka
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon extract
- 3 ½ cups (420 grams) all-purpose flour
For the sesame coating
- ⅓ cup sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Make the dough: In a large bowl mix the sugar, the ground cinnamon, baking powder, the baking soda and salt. Add the olive oil, the orange juice, the raki (or grappa) and the cinnamon extract and whisk for one minute until the sugar is dissolved.
- Keep half cup of flour aside and add the rest 3 cups to the bowl. Mix until a soft dough is formed. Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes and if it is sticky add the rest of the flour gradually until a soft, pliable dough is formed.
- Prepare the sesame coating: Put the sesame seeds in a fine sieve, rinse and drain. Add the one tablespoon sugar and mix well (this will help the seeds to stick on the cookies).
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C)
- How to shape the cookies:Spread some sesame on your work surface.Take a piece of dough the size of a small walnut and knead it in your hands for a few seconds. Roll it out to form a 4-inch “snake” the thickness of your little finger. If the dough crumbles knead it some more to develop more structure.Pass it over the sesame to coat it, and place it onto a lined baking sheet making an S-shape. You can also make little circles.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden.Let them cool on a rack.Eat!
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Is the cinnamom extract called for the same as cinnamom oil sold as an essential oil or are they different? Where is the best place to purchase cinnamom extract?
Yes, it is the essential oil from the cinnamon (it's very strong!). Just make sure it is food-grade and pure.
Here in Greece we find it in some bakeries, cake-supplies stores, or stores that sell herbs, spices and similar stuff.
I believe you can also find it on amazon or ebay.
Please let me know if you need further help ! 🙂
Thanks Makos. I'll track some down. I have to make these!!! Love your blog BTW
It's my pleasure! I hope you enjoy them, they're great dunked in coffee!
I love these very forgiving delicious ! Made them twice so simple !
Hi Joll, that's great!!!
greek lady who worships dogs
very excited to try this twist on my recipe....so much healthier than butter and zero guilt! thank you
Thank you very much!
They're not exactly zero quilt but pretty close, haha 🙂